Skip to main content

British Army Of The Rhine

Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 21 November 1978

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence when last he paid an official visit to the British Army of the Rhine.

Is the Secretary of State aware that much of the BAOR equipment is much too old and that BAOR is short of spare parts and ammunition? Is it true that during the recent NATO manoeuvres the British infantry was distinguishable from the infantry of every other country involved by the fact that it had to walk?

The hon. Gentleman may have been too influenced by certain press accounts, but it is a fact that a number of our infantry battalions are not provided with vehicles—not for economic reasons, but because their role in the Fifth Field Force does not require it. Inevitably, there are always allegations of shortages of equipment, and so on, but it is a fact that in the present year 54 new items of equipment are being introduced into the Services generally. On my recent visit I sensed the Army's satisfaction with the fact that new equipment, such as Clansman and Milan, is due to come into operation this year.

What is the current balance of payments cost of our presence in Western Germany, what progress, if any, has been made towards an offsetting agreement with the West German Government, and is not this one of the factors that need to be dealt with before we even consider joining a European monetary system?

I do not see the direct relationship between this matter and the European monetary system. I cannot give my hon. Friend the exact figure, but the offset arrangement with the German Government was announced to the House about a year ago, and is still in force.

How has the right hon. Gentleman the effrontery to claim that he put together a package to improve Britain's defences when he knows that for the past four years he has been a member of a Government who have inflicted untold harm, not only on BAOR but on all British defence forces? The only question is whether he has done more damage to their morale than he has to their equipment.

The reason that I put together a package of improvements was that I was relying on facts. I do not deal in the kind of rhetoric which, unhappily, the right hon. Gentleman has acquired from some of his hon. Friends.